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Rihanna is back with best album yet

Forget the concerns with last year's dark, disappointing "Rated R," which awkwardly dealt with her all-too-public breakup with Chris Brown. With the bright and shiny "Loud," Rihanna rebounds with her best album yet.

Though Miss "Umbrella" is understandably best known for her singles, "Loud" rewards those who listen to it as a whole.

The first half is filled with StarGate-produced club anthems, starting with the clever, up-tempo "S&M" and ending with the massive Euro-trance "Only Girl (in the World)," which brings the drama as well as the BPMs.

She slows things down — for "What's My Name," which is already No. 1 and deservedly heading for omnipresence, and the soon-to-be smashes "Cheers (Drink to That)," which likely will spawn catch phrases and countless drunken sing-alongs, and "Fading," a playful kiss-off. But they all fit together as social tales set in public places.

The second half of "Loud" is more private, filled with regrets and worries, from the ska-influenced "Man Down" to "Love the Way You Lie (Part 2)," the sequel to her hit duet with Eminem, telling the tale from her point of view.

With "Loud," Rihanna shows that pop albums can be complex and upbeat, thought-provoking and successful. And, man, is "Loud" going to be successful, since every song here is a potential hit.

— Glenn Gamboa, Newsday


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